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Tributes pour in for Gordon Lightfoot, 'the heart of Canada'

'The world lost one of its great storytellers yesterday. Canada lost part of itself,' said actor Kiefer Sutherland, one of many who paid homage to Orillia's Gordon Lightfoot
Gordon Lightfoot shows the award to the crowd as he was inducted into the Mariposa Folk Festival hall of fame at last summer's event. Lightfoot, 84, died Monday night.

The streets of Orillia may seem a little quieter today; the city a little less than it was yesterday.

For 84 years, Gordon Lightfoot has been a source of civic pride. He was a singer and songwriter at heart, but he was also a teacher, a source of inspiration and pride — someone who exemplified what it was to be a Canadian.

Despite the heights of his fame, Orillia was always home; the Mariposa Folk Festival was his living room. And we were fortunate to be so often in his presence.

But the impact of this giant among musicians transcended not only Orillia, but Ontario and Canada. His voice, his words and his songs have resonated throughout the globe.

So, today, it should come as no surprise that he is being remembered not only in his hometown, but throughout the land that he helped to define. And far beyond.

“He sat on top of the mountain. He shared what he saw. For so many around the world, they knew our stories because of him,” said George Stroumboulopoulos.

“Rest in peace Gord. Golden forever.”

Rock icon Billy Joel posted a video on his Facebook Page this morning, singing one of Lightfoot's signature songs, If You Could Read My Mind. 

“So sad to hear of the death of Gordon Lightfoot,” said Joel. “He was a lifelong musical hero of mine. His songs were the heart of Canada.”

Author Stephen King called Lightfoot “a great songwriter and a wonderful performer.” 

Canadian-born actor Kiefer Sutherland echoed the sentiments of many.

“The world lost one of its great storytellers yesterday. Canada lost part of itself. And I lost a hero,” wrote Sutherland on Twitter.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid tribute to Canada’s troubadour before taking questions from the media today.

"One of Canada's greatest songwriters and just an extraordinary Canadian icon,” Trudeau said of Lightfoot. “He loved this country with an incredible, deep passion and was extraordinarily humble about it as well."

Astronaut Chris Hadfield said Lightfoot occupied rarefied air. 

“Your poetry and melodies are an eternal inspiration,” Hadfield Tweeted.

Dave Hodge, a longtime hockey broadcaster, said “the loss of Gordon Lightfoot cannot be measured.”

His fellow folk musician, Stephen Fearing, said Lightfoot was a mentor.

“Thank you Gordon Lightfoot. You taught me so much and last summer, playing for you was moving and joyful,” he said, referencing Lightfoot’s induction into the Mariposa Folk Festival Hall of Fame last summer at Tudhope Park. “I wish you safe travels wherever you go and rest assure we will all sing your songs from here on out. Maestro, giant, beautiful.”

Liona Boyd, the ‘first lady of guitar’ credits Lightfoot, in part, for her success; she opened for him on his tour in the 1970s.

“Gordon was a unique and special person as well as being one of the greatest songwriters of all time,” Boyd said on her Facebook page. “RIP dearest Gordon, thanks for the memories and for helping to launch my career all those years ago.”

Singer Ian Thomas compared Lightfoot to the Group of Seven.

“Gordon Lightfoot was a musical equivalent to The Group of Seven. Some of his songs were imbued with the conifers, lakes and rock of the Cambrian Shield,” Thomas wrote. 

“It always amazed me that when the Beatles were in full bloom, Canadian teenagers like me were listening to Pussy Willows Cat-Tails, and the Canadian Railroad Trilogy at the same parties. And so, like many Canadians, I sensed our precious piece of this earth that we call Canada, in Gord’s songs.”

Thomas added: “He was a one-off. My Canada felt better when Gord was in it.”